Dining App Hones in on Healthy, Social Choices

It took around two years for Shatabdi Basu and her team to compile all the research needed to launch Savoir, a dining discovery app that went live in July. The process, however, wasn’t exactly the kind of painstaking operation you might imagine, Basu admits. “It was definitely an enjoyable journey,” she says.

The app, which targets healthy and social choices, currently features more than 600 Chicago restaurants. Each one was tested, approved—and mostly relished—by a member of the Savoir team. Basu, who calls herself a “Chicago gal” can’t count how many she’s personally tried. “It’s a lot of them,” she says, laughing.

Basu co-founded Savoir with her husband, Nirav Saraiya, and speaks proudly of the hands-on approach.

“All of the restaurants are from our personal experience, from the team’s experience,” she says. “The passion drives us. A lot of this was not done as oh, ‘We’re researching for Savoir.’ A lot of it was ‘We’re going out to eat.’ We pick a place we think we want to go to, and we kind of draw on that experience when we put things together for Savoir.”

The result: An app that takes a distinct two-fold approach in a crowded market. To separate itself from the flooded discovery options already available, Basu wanted to, not surprisingly, hone in on some very important themes in her own life.

The first was eating healthy. The idea that diners want higher-quality, better-sourced ingredients in no great revelation. But Basu wanted to make it easier to locate those options at full-service restaurants, and integrate a system that can help conscious eaters stick to their goals.

“On a more serious note, there is a population of folks who are, for various reasons, healthy reasons, are on diets,” she says. “They suffer from an immense amount of stress, or a social stigma with going out and dining, which kind of becomes a vicious cycle because it stops them from socializing. Then again, they fall back into unhealthy eating habits.”

The solution was FitLens. The feature, along with the healthy dining suggestions, enables credentialed health and fitness professionals to share their own advice, including reviews of the listed restaurants. Users can also submit questions and, perhaps down the road, receive one-on-on advice. “Savior app allows eaters to enjoy great tasting, healthy food from Chicago’s best restaurants. FitLens’ experts recommend an array of delicious items and creative options for healthy eating without deprivation,” says Savoir panelist Karen Malkin, an integrative health and lifestyle practitioner, certified health coach, and eating psychology teacher who is featured regularly on Sports Medicine Weekly and ESPN1000 radio. “[It’s] a must have for mindful eaters desiring a healthy lifestyle.”

Basu has experienced these types of challenges at times in her life. “It definitely, personally appeals to me,” she explains. “I’m heavily focused on health and fitness. It’s been a personal journey for me. There have been certain phases of my life where I’ve focused on weight loss, especially after my first pregnancy. It can be challenging.”

That sentiment flowed into Savoir’s next feature, InnerCircle. Trying to balance social and dietary concerns can be difficult, Basu says. Especially when somebody is first starting out. That led to the app’s tag line: “Eat out. Have fun. Stay fit.” Basu wants to allow diners the opportunity to enjoy both aspects in harmony.

“There’s a lot of external stress, and we don’t want you to cut yourself off from socialization,” she says. “You have to be able to go out and do that. Eat healthy and stick to your goals, and lose weight. … We look at socialization, I would define it as a time when you go out with your friends or family and you sit down together and have a good meal.”

InnerCircle is unique, Basu says, in the details and options. It creates a personal review system where users can post, view, and share reviews within their own community. “It’s really a private group where you add people you know, your co-workers, and you kind of share your experiences, your reviews, and photos, on dining out. Right now, there is no social engine like this that focuses just on dining and let’s you share your thoughts with people that you know. Another aspect of our market research shows that when you’re looking for a place to go out to eat, the top reference point, even with multiple sources of information, is still going to be people’s friends and families.”

The app, which is currently free of charge for iOS devices (an Android edition is in the works), also has a Promos feature that gathers local dealsfrom restaurants. Basu says Savoir has plans to expand into major markets later this year. They’re targeting New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

“Not just from a business or a monetizing the app perspective, Savoir is really a passion for us, and our goal is to add value for people and develop this healthy mindset,” Basu says. “We would feel, and personally I would feel, successful if this becomes a mindset where people can take it home and bring it to their kitchens.”

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